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How to Spot an Alien

by on 30 July 2021

Jelly through Sticky Fingers

How to Spot an Alien

by Georgia Christou

The Questors, at the Judy Dench Playhouse, Ealing until 31st July

Review by Emma Byrne

Something awfully strange is happening in Ealing.  The theatres are coming back to life?  Well, yes, there’s that, but no, I mean something really scary!  Your reviewer thought she had better check it out.

So I took along my daughter who, at five, is a little younger than the recommended audience of 7+ and – bless her timid little heart – hates even mild peril on screen.  I wasn’t sure if she’d make it through, especially when our protagonists, Jonjo and Jelly – played with charm and enthusiasm by Sara Page and Emily Sanctuary – warned that there was no guarantee of a happy ending.

Despite a few “watching through her fingers” moments, my daughter was entranced enough by the show, and the very reasonably priced Smarties stocked behind the Questors Theatre bar, to stay for the full fifty minutes without an interval that the show runs.

While some of the references to terrestrial TV programmes sailed over the head of a child raised on streaming services, the spell cast by Jelly and Jonjo’s aunt Liena (played with twittering menace by Lisa Varty) was just unsettling enough.

The set and costume design by Carla Marker and Sarah Andrews draw from a striking palette of crayon-box colours that lends an otherworldly atmosphere to the stage.

But it is director Shaan Latif-Shaikh’s background in puppeteering that truly brings the magic.  The cast of characters is impressive in its breadth, from salt-of-the-galaxy space van driver Rennie, brought to life by William Connor and Lucy Aley-Parker working in glorious tandem – to the towering antagonist, via a supporting cast of alien species and beautiful space voyage sequence.

I do wish that the final beat of the play had been allowed to register just a little longer; there’s a lot of emotion invested in Jonjo and Jelly’s desire to reunite with their mum, but the eventual reunion was almost blink-and-miss-it.  But overall the show was enjoyable, exciting, and just long enough for the stamina of my small companion.

There are a few performances remaining, including a relaxed performance in the Saturday matinee slot.  That said, the cast were unphased by shout outs from the audience (“she farted?!”) even on their opening night.  Take along your kids and enjoy the magic of our finally reopened theatres.

Emma Byrne, July 2021

Photography by Jane Arnold-Forster and Alex Marker

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